Emerging Strong

miscarriage

I had a miscarriage. It happened about a month ago, I was 8 weeks along.

While it was happening, I actually didn’t think it was that bad. The physical pain of it felt like bad cramps. Which didn’t feel too painful to me, since I know what unmedicated labor feels like.  Emotionally, I thought I was ok too. I sobbed when I passed the baby, but then I felt like I was done mourning. But here’s the thing with grief, it comes in waves. You’ll be ok for awhile and then something reminds you of what could have been, like a pregnancy announcement from a friend. It’s heart shattering. You want to feel happy for all the other happy, healthy pregnancies you hear about, but you can’t help feel sad for yourself.

I kinda had an inkling that something wasn’t right with the pregnancy. I found out when I missed my period and did a pregnancy test. It was a bit of a surprise but very exciting.  I even got creative with telling my husband the news. We played a game of banana grams and I spelled out “we are pregnant due october.” It was a really joyous moment with just the two of us, well, three of us. He was so surprised but really happy and he hugged and kissed me.

I started to feel some pregnancy symptoms, fatigue mostly and a bit more hungry than usual. But then, I didn’t really “feel pregnant” anymore. I just brushed those feelings aside and thought maybe I was just lucky and I won’t get sick.

We started fantasizing about our baby. What gender will it be? What names do we like? How are we going to announce to our family? We even had a nickname for our baby, “Zippy.” (Don’t ask- inside joke).

Then just 2 weeks later, the spotting began. I had bled a little bit with my first son around 7 weeks, so I wasn’t too worried. But then the cramping started and the bleeding became heavier. I just knew that I was going to miscarriage.

But I went to the ER. They did an ultrasound and found that the baby was only measuring 6 weeks and no heartbeat. But the doctor said it could be that I was earlier on than I thought and that the baby was too small to detect a heartbeat. Maybe she just felt bad for me and didn’t want to shatter my dreams by saying that I was definitely miscarrying. But in my heart, I knew that the baby wasn’t alive anymore.

It was amazing that my body knew just what to do though and I am grateful for that. I am grateful for a supportive husband and he is very loving, yet I feel like he doesn’t understand fully what I went through. It’s not his fault, I don’t blame him. So, I am reaching out to other mothers who have experienced the heartbreak of a miscarriage or still birth or infertility. I wish I had more words of wisdom about how to cope, but I’m not coping as well as I would like. I guess writing this is my way of coping.

My emotions are still raw. I miss my baby. Physically, I believe that I am completely healed. The bleeding stopped, the cramping ceased. I have even have had another period since then. So, I guess my body has moved on. The emotional healing is taking it’s time. My hormones are still evening out and I am trying my best to cope while they do. I’m just sad. In my brain, I know that everything is going to be alright; that we will have more children and I trust that God knows what He’s doing. In my brain, I know it wasn’t anything that I did to cause the miscarriage. In my brain, I am ok. But I wish I could say the same for my heart. My heart is broken and when it is broken I can’t feel like everything is going to be ok, even though my brain knows it will be.

All I know is that Jesus Christ can mend my broken heart. I know it will take time to heal emotionally. And I know someday I will get to hold my angel. I know that God loves me and I have been immensely blessed with two beautiful sons so far. “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”-Kahlil Gibran. Hopefully, I will emerge stronger.

You are what you eat

     Love this meme! But all seriousness aside, we’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat” and it is a little cliche, ok, maybe a lottle cliche. But I have found this to be so true. Your mind and gut are connected. If your gut is happy, then your mind is happy. I your gut is not happy, your mind suffers. But don’t just take my word for it, here is a scientific article that talks about that connection. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease
     For the past year, I have made a conscious effort to eat more healthy. And the results have been astounding. Below, the picture on the left is of me Christmas of 2014. I was eating crap… ok not literally. As you can see, my baby was just a month old but I did not eat well during my pregnancy and I had the weight gain to show for it. I was addicted to cookies, ice cream, chocolate, pretty much anything with sugar. I thought that after my baby was born, with breastfeeding, I would be well on my way back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Well, that doesn’t happen without making some serious lifestyle changes.
     When my baby was three months old, I was starting to get worried that my weight gain was going to be permanent. (Which is erroneous thinking, NOTHING IS PERMANENT. You can change!) It also didn’t help that my psych meds that I was taking are notoriously known to cause weight gain. I knew I needed help before this became really out of hand.
     My answer to prayer came when I visited my neighbor/ friend down the street. She told me about a health program that she had done and lost 30 lbs in just 3 months. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to lose weight like that, but I also didn’t want to compromise my milk supply for nursing. It just so happens that this program had a specialized program just for nursing mothers! At this point, I was willing to try anything. It was a bit of a stretch on our budget for the food, but it was important to me, so we made it work.
     Then fast forward and I now look like the picture on the right. I lost 40 lbs in just 5 months! I had tried to lose weight before, by exercising my butt off but with no avail. I was amazed that the pounds were just shedding off me! I wasn’t hungry and I was able to keep a good milk supply. But more importantly, was how I felt. Not only did I get my energy back, I just feel happier. I am not the hermit/ recluse I once was before. I am an active participant with kids. I love going out with friends. I have much more confidence in myself. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing I do feel.
It has now been 5 months since losing 40 lbs and I have kept it off. Sometimes I indulge a little bit on sweets, but I always feel it later. I get super tired and what some people call a “brain fog”. I’m cranky, I just feel miserable.
     Also, I have mentioned this before, but I have celiac’s disease. And oddly enough, I was diagnosed with celiac’s shortly after I was diagnosed with bipolar. That means that gluten is really bad for me. I have reasons to believe that my first manic/psychotic episode was caused by untreated celiac’s disease. My gut was literally damaged by the consumption of gluten. And damaged gut meant manic depressive me. Good news is that the cure to celiac’s is just a gluten free diet! It took about 6 months to completely heal my intestines.
     So, I am living proof that you are what you eat. I might add that exercise has a dramatic effect on your mental health too, but I have found that no amount of exercise will help unless you are getting the right nutrition too! 80% of weight loss is diet, while only 20% is exercise! I have to say that I am not perfect about my nutrition, but I am sure a lot better than I was about a year ago. And by the way, after just a month of going on this program, I was able to decrease my medication dosage and eventually go off medication completely! Read my other post about that here. https://bipolarmomom.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/quick-update/
     Since my miraculous success in my health, both physically and mentally, I decided to become a health coach. I help people through the program that I did. If you want to know exactly what I did, email me at alexispyperwatson@gmail.com.
blog before and after
*Results vary. Lose 2-5 lbs/week for the first 2 weeks and 1-2 lbs/week thereafter.

Momsteritis 

The kids wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed at the crack of dawn. Ugh, it’s going to be one of those days. You roll over in bed, pretending to still be asleep in hopes that the kids will realize it’s too early and go back to bed. Yeah right, like that’s gonna ever happen. You try to stay in bed as long as possible to try to get a few more precious minutes of shut eye. But the tummies are growling and the little hands are tugging at you. Finally, you give up on all hopes of sleep and groggily get out of bed and get breakfast on. You’re out of milk. Cold cereal is the favorite breakfast food, but you make do with oatmeal made with water. The whole morning is filled with a billion “No’s” and “leave your brother alone” and “stop that!” Each time progressively getting louder and more agitated. Next thing you know, someone peed on the couch…again! You hurry and take a shower while your baby naps and your toddler is supposedly playing quietly with his toys. In the 2 seconds you had in the shower your kid managed to dump your whole water bottle out on your bed, soaking everything including your favorite book. There has been at least 3 tantrums for no apparent reason. Your baby just wants to be held…all…the…time. You do manage to get your baby down for a nap but it doesn’t last long because of loud screeching and squealing from your toddler. Who knew that such a little body had so much lung capacity! And it’s not even lunch time!?

Sound familiar? Momsteritis is a condition where you turn into a momster, part monster, part mom. Your kids are driving you nuts to the point where you just about lose it! These days you wish you could run away, lock yourself in your room or sell the kids to the circus.

Believe it or not, this was exactly my day a couple of days ago. This day went on to having more tantrums, refusing to go potty, tired babies that just won’t take a nap and dishes stinkin’ up the place and toys that are strewn everywhere. You find yourself yelling/ begging /crying at your kids to get them to behave but to no avail. The more you try to control the situation the more you’re losing control.

Yep, it’s a bad case of momsteritis!

So, how is momsteritis treated? I have 4 easy steps for you.

  1. Take care of yourself. This falls under more of a longterm treatment plan. If you are not able to take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of your lovely snot-nosed brats, uh, I mean children. You need to take time for yourself. You spend your whole day taking care of the needs of others, but who’s taking care of you? Moms are the worst at this.Your kids need a sane mom. So, get a babysitter, hand your kids off to dad or grandma and go shopping. Do something for YOU. This is so important!
  2. In the moment, stay calm. If you find yourself unable to stay calm, give yourself a timeout so you can get calm. This is a healthy way to deal with stress and maybe your kids can learn from your example! Remove yourself until you are able to deal with it. Try breathing exercises and later when you know you will be uninterrupted you can try self-hypnosis. A professional can help you know how to do that. I have found these things to be helpful!
  3. Remember the good days, or moments. Despite all the chaos and tears, there are special moments with your kids that you just want to cherish forever. Write them down or document it somehow ( a picture or short video), so you know they happened and you can look back on it! Another suggestion when there’s a bad day, go look in on them while they are sleeping. Nothing is more precious than watching a child/baby sleep. You just want to protect them and hold them forever.
  4. Read this! https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/behold-thy-mother?lang=eng                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Here’s my step 3 I did today and it helped my momsteritis. I want to remember this moment forever. My 2 year old was so tired and just wanted to snuggle. I sang songs to him and he drifted peacefully off to dream land. It was a tender mercy from God. I had a moment to just watch him and love him. He is a precious child and he will always be my baby. He is still learning about life. He’s never been 2 years old before and I’ve never parented a 2 year old before. We’re all doing the best we know how. (And by the way, that is a cast you seen on his arm. He was being a wild boy and fell off our office chair and broke his arm. Ever since then he has been more cuddly. Poor kid.)

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Soon you won’t have these moments. Cherish them while you can. All kids grow up. Being a mom is the best thing in the world! We all have momsteritis from time to time. And it’s ok. We live and learn.

How do you deal with momster days? I’d love to hear your input, even if it’s just a “I hear ya.” There is power in knowing that it’s not just you or your kid.

Quick update

It’s been almost a year since I last wrote a post! I am so behind. Quick update for those of you who are reading.

Baby boy #2 was born last November 2014. He has grown up so much and he’s fast approaching his first birthday! I can’t believe it! He has been hitting all of the developmental milestones. He is a sweetheart and is so cuddly. I am still breastfeeding and it makes my mom mom heart happy. He is a gift and miracle from God. I love him so much! This is him playing in the outside fall weather today!

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I have been doing amazing. Albeit the last couple of months my moods have been a little bit more swingy. But my period started back up again so I’m sure the changing hormones have something to do with that.

About 3 months after my second son was born, I made a pretty big decision to go off medication. I know that is a huge no-no in the psychiatric world. However, I was working very closely with my psychiatrist. We had many discussions about my diagnosis. She wasn’t actually sure I had bipolar. (Does this mean I have to change my blog name?) She was perplexed on how well I was doing and how little of a dose of Seroquel I was on. I was taking 50 mg of Seroquel and then cut it in half to 25 mg and still no problems or any signs of relapse. She told me that 25 mg of Seroquel is too insufficient of a dosage to treat bipolar. Usually people who take 25 mg of Seroquel just take it to help them sleep not to treat bipolar disorder. It is quite a powerful sleep agent.

Anyway, since I was feeling so good, we decided to go off and see what happens. I slowly weaned off and got completely off by April 2015. It’s been 7 months and I am still not taking anything regularly! Except maybe a multivitamin.

A word of caution to those with a mental illness. DO NOT GO OFF MEDICATION WITH OUT CONSULTING YOUR DOCTOR! I cannot emphasize that enough! It is easy to fall into the vicious cycle of taking medication, feeling better, deciding you don’t need medication because you feel better, then going off medication, feeling worse, relapsing and starting the whole cycle over again. It is not the end of the world if you need medication. Medication has saved my life in the past and has helped numerous of my family members.

My situation is being closely monitored. My husband is well aware of the tell tale signs of another manic episode. And we have a plan of action. One of my big triggers is sleep deprivation. Sometimes I can get worked up and so anxious about something that I cannot sleep. If that continues for a couple of nights then that’s when things can get scary.

There has been a couple of instances since April that I could not sleep because of high anxiety. I had Seroquel on hand and took it. (I had approval from my doctor to do this) The Seroquel would at least help me fall back asleep and usually by morning I am good. A little groggy but good. This has only happened twice though. But I am prepared to use my emergency Seroquel stash when there is need.

But so far, I have been very stable. Not abnormally happy, not abnormally sad. Like I said earlier, there have been some minor mood swings but nothing that would set off alarms. I have had some downer days. And you could argue that they are happening a little too often that I would like. But I can handle it. I am not even close to being suicidal.

So there’s my not-so-quick-update. Life is good. I’m now 2.5 years manic free. There is hope. Don’t give up, don’t give in and don’t give out. Just because I am doing well now, doesn’t mean I haven’t forgotten what it feels like to be depressed/ manic. Those times were the worst times in my life (my 2 hospitalizations) and I will never forget them. I hope someone can find hope in what I write and that is why I write.

My two healthy boys!

My two healthy boys! I love them so much! It is a miracle to have them both with us!

Baby #2 has arrived!

Ok, I’m sorry. It’s been way too long since I’ve written a post. But I have a good excuse: I had a baby! It turns out that taking care of two kids eats up all your time and not to mention your energy! But here I am making an effort to keep writing. This blog will be more of an update of how things are going for me mentally.
After much deliberation about medication and breastfeeding, I decided to switch to Seroquel. According to my research it seemed like the least harmful yet still effective medication for me. I was still nervous about switching. But I went for it. My doctor suggested that I take both Latuda and Seroquel at the same time for a few days and then cut the Latuda in half. And after a few days drop Latuda completely. It was a pretty smooth transition. The seroquel made me a little dizzy and drowsy at first, but that soon went away.
Then about 2 weeks later I had my baby! He wasn’t due for another 2.5 weeks, but there were some complications. I got pre-eclampsia again! ( I got it with my first kid then it turned into HELLP) this time it wasn’t as severe though. The only troubling thing was that I had huge amounts of protein in my urine. My blood pressure was fine, my platelets and liver enzymes were all normal. Given my history though, my doctor wanted to go ahead and induce me to be safe.
So I was induced on Thanksgiving day at about 4 in the afternoon.
It was a very smooth delivery. I was in labor for about 8 hours and this time I gave in and got an epidural. I loved it. It made things a lot calmer, which is important to me.
We had a healthy 6 lb 5 oz boy. And he is just the most darling kid ever! We love him so much.
If you have read some of my other posts, you would have read that the delivery of my first son was not so smooth. I had a full blown manic / psychotic episode just days after my son was born. It was scary and awful.
So this time we were very cautious and ready to act of any thing of the sort were to happen again.
But I’ve been doing so good this time! No mania or depression! I attribute it to actually being on medication this time. I was on nothing with my first. I feel happy and actually able to deal with the stress of having a newborn. Also, circumstances were a lot better this time too! We were close to family, we didn’t have a premature baby in the NICU and we weren’t in the middle of moving like last time.
After having such a smooth delivery, I realized just how traumatic my first sons ‘s birth was! That was such a crazy time! I am so grateful that I didn’t end up in the hospital; my family needed me, I had two boys and my husband to care of.
I’ve been diligent about taking my meds. For awhile there, I was considering lowering my dosage because I was feeling so good. But every time I prayed about it, I always had nightmares that I was back in the hospital again or witnessing someone else being psychotic. So I guess that was my answer to my prayers.
A side note : I am a Mormon and I believe in God and that he hears and answers prayers. I take my mental health issues to God often because I know that because I care about it, He cares about it too.
I was a little worried about nursing while on seroquel. But so far I feel like it doesn’t affect my baby at all! He’s not even drowsy.
I think I’ve been blessed with a really good baby too. He’s just 2 months old and he’s already sleeping through the night!
I think the other thing that is helping me stay stable is eating healthy and exercising. I don’t do a lot of exercise but I believe that even just a little bit helps.
I totally believe that certain foods can affect your mental health! I read this interesting article recently about the correlation between inflammation and mental illness, specially depression. Here’s the link http://www.feelguide.com/2015/01/06/new-research-discovers-tha-depression-is-an-allergic-reaction-to-inflammation/.
If you are even slightly allergic or intolerant to some foods, it will cause inflammation in your body. For me, I know that I can’t tolerate gluten. I have celiac’s disease. A big stressor on the body is sugar, too. I know that I always feel better if I don’t eat sugar.
Anyway, I feel so blessed right now. I have two wonderful little boys and a totally solid and supportive husband. I’m coming up on two years being manic free! Thanks for reading! Please comment below about anything! I love to hear your comments!

4 Things I wish I knew when I was diagnosed Bipolar

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was devastated. I felt really sorry for myself and I hated that I was now labeled as bipolar. The only thing I thought I knew about bipolar was that only crazy people had it. I did feel “crazy” and I felt like there was no hope for me to have a normal life.  It took me a while to accept my diagnosis.   I have made a list of things I wish I had known about bipolar when I was diagnosed.   My hope is that these things can help others know that it’s ok to have bipolar or any other mental illness, it doesn’t make you any less of a person.

1. Bipolar does not equal “crazy”

First of all, having bipolar does not mean being in a constant “crazy” state. People with bipolar have psychotic “episodes” but they are not indefinitely psychotic. Even if an episode, either manic or depressive, lasts for years an episode is characterized by a time when you are not yourself. You are either uncharacteristically elated or depressed for a time. Some depressive episodes last months or years. But usually in bipolar, a manic/psychotic episode lasts a week maybe 2. There are probably some cases where this is not true, but the majority of cases, a psychotic episode lasts for a relatively short period of time. Therefore, you are not always crazy, you are just temporarily not yourself.

During a psychotic episode, your brain literally has physical and biological alterations and changes. Brain scans have revealed reduced grey matter in the brains of some people who have had a history of psychosis, which may explain effects on thought processing. So bipolar brains are physically different than non-bipolar brains. There are also increased levels of dopamine which effects memory, emotion, social behavior and self-awareness.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of pleasure or reward. To put it simply, bipolar is a chemical reaction in your brain. You’re not crazy, it just so happens that your brain produced too much dopamine and that’s how bipolar brains deal with too much stress.

2. It’s not your fault

It’s easy to blame yourself or others when something goes wrong. It is very human to want to find out why something happened. When I was diagnosed I looked for every possibly reason as to why I had a psychotic episode. I thought that I could cope with it better if there was something or someone to blame. I blamed myself heavily the months following my diagnosis. I thought that I just lacked character, that I was unable to control my emotions. I felt like if maybe I had just tried harder that I could have prevented the manic episodes. Maybe if I just squared my shoulders and thought more positively I could have avoided the heartache I brought to my family. I thought of every possible thing that I could have done differently.  I know now that none of this is true, or helpful.  It was not my fault at all, I couldn’t have known what was going to happen. I just got “sick” and needed extra help to get better.

3. Hospitalization isn’t the end of the world

I was horrified that I ended up in the psych ward. Thanks to Hollywood and social stigmas, I was convinced that the psych ward was only for the real “crazies.” After two hospitalizations, I learned that the hospital isn’t punishment, but it can be a helpful thing. It is a great place to get help when you are not in control and could be a danger to yourself or others.  You gain strength from seeing other people in similar situations. Yes, it is no fun to be in any kind of hospital, but staff is there to help you not to hurt you. I recently read this great article about psychiatric hospitalization, touching on the same points I did. You can read it here. In short, hospitalization is to get you better. You shouldn’t be ashamed for getting help. If you went to the hospital for appendicitis, you wouldn’t be embarrassed coming out of surgery, you would be relieved that your appendix didn’t burst inside of you. It shouldn’t be any different with bipolar. You are hospitalized because you are in need of medical help to treat a medical condition. Nothing wrong with that.

4. Bipolar is very treatable and you can live a normal life

There is no cure to bipolar disorder. There is no one time fix, it needs constant supervision and attention. But considering the treatment options, it isn’t that bad. It’s pretty amazing to think that all I have to do is take some pills and see a doctor regularly. Sure, finding the right medication can be taxing and dealing with side effects is no fun. But once you find which medications work for you, then it’s pretty simple.  Being diagnosed with any medical condition is life changing. But it doesn’t have to take over your life. I rarely think about my disorder because it is being managed well and I don’t feel like it effects me day-to-day. I don’t think of myself as less capable than someone without bipolar. I can do the same things I could do before I was diagnosed. I am still the same person, nothing has changed except for the medication I have to remember to take and I talk to a professional to make sure I’m doing alright.  Most people who know me, have no clue that I have bipolar disorder. And they would never guess that about me. I am a totally functional adult, capable of great things. And you are too!

These 4 things are some of the things that I have learned about mental illness through personal experience. Please share what you have learned about mental illness from your experience or others you know.

Breastfeeding Dilemma

Breastfeeding is another topic I’d love to discuss with other moms with bipolar or any mental illness. I could not breastfeed my first son because I was taking Lithium. I was terribly heartbroken about it. I can’t even begin to describe how much of a disappointment it was for me. During my pregnancy, I had no question as to whether or not I would breastfeed. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I read of the many benefits for me and for my baby. Breast milk is the ideal nutrition for your baby. It contains essential vitamins, protein and fat. It is more easily digested than formula. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding can help reduce stress and the risk of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding also is great for bonding with your baby and helps your baby feel secure. It reduces the risk of SIDS. It is even linked to higher IQ scores. Plus you don’t have to hassle with sterilizing bottles or warming formula.

I felt like a bad mother because I couldn’t provide all those benefits for my baby. I was worried my baby wouldn’t be as smart or healthy as other breastfed babies. Not being able to breastfeed made me more depressed. And seeing other mothers breastfeed was hard. I felt like other mothers were judging me because I was using formula. What’s worse is that my doctor made it seem like I would never be able to breastfeed again. Because she said that I would need to take Lithium after every baby. I stopped seeing her and went to a more helpful and optimistic doctor that was willing to work with me and my desire to breastfeed.

The second time I got pregnant, I really wanted to make breastfeeding work. I did tons of research! Before I got pregnant I weaned off Lithium and replaced it with Latuda. So far Latuda has been working fine for me. But there is absolutely no data about breastfeeding on Latuda. Everything that I read said to either discontinue the drug or discontinue breastfeeding, don’t do both. However, my doctor said that probably not a significant amount of the drug would be excreted into the milk. But no one knows what kind of effect it will have on the nursing baby. I just didn’t want to put my baby in that kind of risk. So, I researched some more.

I found that Seroquel was an L2! ( I’m using Dr. Thomas Hale’s categorizing, click here to read more about the categories of drugs for breastfeeding) I was delighted to read this, but I’ve taken Seroquel before and I did not like it. It made me extremely drowsy and dizzy. However, I didn’t take it for very long. Maybe I just needed to give it some time for the side effects to wear off.

I’m writing this post in hopes that there is maybe another mother out there that has tried Seroquel during pregnancy and breastfeeding and what their experience was. I’m still not sure what to do exactly but I’m leaning toward switching to Seroquel soon. But I better decide quick because my due date is coming up fast!